With over 1.3 billion people and a GDP likely to overtake the UK’s in the next couple of years, India is a country we all need to take notice of.
An estimated 1.4 million British Indians live in the UK, and are classified as the largest visible ethnic group. With Brexit this is a huge market for Britain to trade with and with so many who are either Indian nationals or of Indian descent here, we have a huge opportunity.
speak to Nimit Shishodia about Indian politics and to get a flavour of the
Indian diaspora in the UK.
Nimit thanks for your time.
Can you tell us a bit about your background and how
you came to be living and working in the UK?
I grew up in the suburbs of Delhi. After my engineering degree, I learnt
Japanese for two years. I was intended to go to Japan, but a Japanese company
in London had a requirement of bilingual network engineer and I landed in UK
and continued to stay here.
You have become engaged in UK politics and campaigned for Seena Shah the Conservative candidate for Brentford & Isleworth in GE2019. How did you get involved in that?
We, the Mangalam group met Seena in a pub during her campaign and she asked us for help and we decided to support her. I was the ward coordinator for Syon and Brentford. We have done canvassing, door to door flyer distribution and road shows, it was great experience to interact with general public as a Conservative campaigner. I found Conservative party members generous, to the group and decent people.
You’re involved in organising India festivals with Mangalam in Hounslow. How did that come about and what sort of events do you do?
Mangalam is a non-profit organisation based in West
London and we primarily do Holi (Color) and Diwali (Fireworks) in March and
I have joined the organisation in Oct 2018 and it has
been a great experience so far, with lot of community members and volunteers
Mangalam has exponentially grown in last year and supported politics.
Last year you were recognised by the High Commission
for helping clean-up the building. How did that come about?
We came to know about the mess created around the High Commission of India (HCI). The Indian diaspora decided not to retaliate in the same way we felt the Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) protestors did to the High Commission, instead we followed the Mahatama Gandhi’s way of peace – calling the whole act as Gandhigiri (the practice of the ideals of Mahatma Gandhi). A lot joined on the day for the clean-up and we clearly sent the message out to the other side.
You have said before this was the first time you had
seen the diaspora of the various regions of India come together as one.
What do you think has changed?
I think it was about the country, when people saw what we felt was a threat from Pakistan and PoK protestors over Indian diaspora and HCI, London. People from all over the country united.
What was it like being in the High Commission and
most importantly did the High Commissioner serve Ferrero
We were treated well in the HCI and we have made so many contacts. Mangalam team was officially invited to dinner by a HCI Counsellor and our efforts were well respected and regarded by the Indian Government, making us feel proud. Time to time we are invited to various events at the HCI.
The BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) is in power in India and seem to be breaking the hold the Congress Party had for many years. The Prime Minister Narendra Modi is depicted as a controversial figure over here, what are your thoughts on Modi?
Modi as a PM is a great leader for India, he thinks out
of box, work hard and committed to growth of country. He comes up with great ideas, but at times
with a poor execution plan.
How do you think the Indian diaspora in the UK generally view India’s domestic politics?
I feel the Indian Diaspora often get too involved in Indian politics, where as they should also indulge in UK politics, since we live here. 2019 is the first time I saw Indian diaspora supporting Conservatives at such scale, due to the Labour party’s anti-India propaganda.
Lastly with Britain having a more global focus away
from the EU, what do you see as the opportunities for our countries
collaboration over the coming decade?
UK as a country needs industries, small and bigger. With leaving the EU, this may be an opportunity to rebuild the country with a self-sufficient and self-sustainable model. I would really love to see British products exported all over the world, boosting the country’s economy.
Robert Ward Councillor for Selsdon and Addington Village, was first returned in local Croydon elections in 2018. He is a former engineer, decision analyst, and project manager. Robert wrote extensively for the now defunct Croydon Citizen, and is now writing for Conservative Home.
Robert thanks for your time.
Tell us a bit about your background.
My father was an electrician and my mother a school secretary. I’m the first in my family to go to university, or even be educated beyond the age of fifteen, thanks to the Butler Education Act of 1944, an expression by the way of One Nation Conservatism that transformed the education of the working class.
father was a life-long blue-collar Conservative but like many young people, I
was more left wing. I went to every political group at university except the
Conservatives. I wasn’t committed to any ideology; I was just curious. I got to
listen to Harold Wilson, Roy Jenkins and the less well-known Paul Foot of the
International Socialists, the forerunner of the Socialist Workers Party.
started work as a railway signal engineer but job prospects in the UK were poor
at the time so I took a job working for a French company in the Middle East. I
later joined Shell and an American oil company living and working in many
countries, coming back to the UK when my children got older. It was only after
I was made redundant that I took a serious look at politics.
We first came to know you as a writer for the Croydon Citizen. How did you get involved, and please tell us a bit about writing for it?
was frustrated that so much of what I saw in the media was left-wing biased.
There was no balance. Conservatives care as much as any, perhaps more, about
equality of opportunity, helping the disadvantaged and generally making the
world a better place. Yet the material online was all written from a left-wing
point of view, advocating left-wing solutions, many of which have failed over
and over again but still were being put forward for yet another try, doomed to
failure. Working people pay the price.
wanted to redress that balance and also present reasoned arguments on policies
about which I had no preconceived idea and had not made up my mind. Some of my
articles were less good than others, partly because I tried to produce something
on a regular basis, but I’m very glad I did it. The Croydon Citizen, and Tom
Black in particular, were very helpful.
We certainly feel Croydon misses the Citizen. What do you think is the future for local journalism here in Croydon?
agree. This is a tough question. Journalism costs money and people don’t want
to pay, and there is only so much advertising revenue. The Croydon Citizen gave
it as good a try as it was possible to do and it didn’t work. People think more
globally and seem to follow celebrities in large numbers via social media.
Political discussion is a minority pursuit especially given the continuing left-wing
media bias even though the majority of the population does not share that view.
I am not optimistic.
You also set up the Croydon Debate Club. How did that come about?
the Croydon Citizen was a great way to present a different message, I thought
that constructive face to face discussion could be stimulating and rewarding
and that was equally missing. I therefore set up the Debate Club. I tried
different venues and formats. The audience varied from maybe ten people to more
than fifty. A celebrity speaker at a central Croydon location on a mid-week
evening was the most successful. Getting a good speaker and finding an
interesting subject was the challenge.
You had a famous meeting where Gavin Barwell spoke, and there were disturbances outside. Do you have any memories from that event?
That was an interesting evening. I remember you came along and were a great help, for which thank you again (Editor’s Note: Mike Swadling of this parish was accosted by and argued with a couple of thugs who tried to shutdown the meeting). Gavin was obviously a big draw, but up until that point the Debate Club had not attracted any extremists. I used Eventbrite to control attendance and I immediately saw with this meeting that there were some different names and a suspicious pattern of booking. I did a bit of internet research and found that both the far left and the far right had booked tickets, and not just one or two.
decided to withdraw their tickets and did so with what I thought was a
reasonably polite email. Both responded with abuse. I asked the local police to
patrol the area on the day. Some protestors showed up. I think they were
anarchists. Gavin and the audience all took it in their stride, although I
didn’t get to participate as well as I would have liked because I was concerned
about getting Gavin safely in and out of the meeting. Good fun in hindsight,
but rather stressful on the day.
You are now a councillor for Selsdon and Addington Village. What are the major challenges or opportunities for your ward?
very fortunate to have been elected to represent Selsdon and Addington Village.
It is a strong community with great assets. The green spaces and the High
Street are the most obvious. The opportunity is to strengthen what is already
there and build connections between groups to enable coherent action. Croydon
Council wants every area of Croydon to have a Community Plan and I think that
is exactly right. I have been pushing this forward as fast as I can. It will be
the basis of what we do going forward. My vision is to see more local people
working in local jobs and shopping in their local High Street. The long-term
disruption of central Croydon, whether Westfield does or does not happen, is an
opportunity for Selsdon.
You live tweet from Council meetings and sometimes seem less than impressed. How do you find the chamber?
was never very impressed with Council meetings as an outsider. My opinion
hasn’t changed, and now I have to sit through it all. Councillors are not happy
either so there has been a recent review of governance. This won’t be a
game-changer but it will I think be an improvement.
Has anything surprised you since becoming a councillor?
it softly but my biggest surprise was that a good number of the Labour
Councillors are decent intelligent people who want similar things to me, albeit
via a different route. The committee that I chair is genuinely cross-party. We
all want the best for Croydon’s children and are determined to do all we can to
change is the big issue of our time. I have been relatively quiet about it
because I don’t like to express an opinion on a complex subject till I have
acquired a decent level of knowledge. I’ve been working on that on and off for close
to a year and I am now confident enough to express an opinion. I expect to
write again on the subject, along with others.
UK government has taken a leading role internationally, something for which it
does not get enough credit. Unfortunately, but unsurprisingly, the issue has
been hijacked by the usual far left suspects as a trojan horse for their
anti-capitalist ambitions. Locally I am supportive of real action by the
Council to make a measurable difference, but the Labour Council has set up a
group that is unrepresentative of public opinion. I am concerned that it will
just be used by Labour and others to give some pseudo-legitimacy for their
usual complaining about the government whilst they themselves do little or
nothing to make a difference on the Council’s carbon emissions.
Writing at a time of Coronavirus it’s difficult to see ahead but what would you like to see from the new Government over the next few years?
We need to get through the pandemic and come out the other
side positively. Right now we have an invisible enemy to fight. Economy and
other matters are rightly taking a back seat. But we are building up an even
bigger debt mountain than we had already. Who knows where the economy might go?
The government needs to lead us in bouncing back. I think Boris is the man to
do that. He has done a great job so far and I think that will continue.
Brexit must be delivered. I thought that on balance Brexit
was the right choice but was not dogmatic. I thought we would be fine whether
we stayed in or left, although I had been concerned on the direction the EU was
taking for some years. Once the decision was taken then it had to be delivered.
I was disappointed that some MPs did all they could to prevent it. I think we
will see the upside quite soon if the government takes advantage of the opportunity.
I would particularly like the tide to be turned on the erosion of free speech. No platforming, especially at universities, is very concerning. As we have already talked about, I believe constructive and robust dialogue leads to improved understanding and better solutions. Suppressing free speech hurts us all.
Maureen Martin is (until they were postponed) a Greater London Assembly candidate for the Christian Parties Alliance (CPA). Maureen has run for parliament in Lewisham East in every election since 2015, which has included a by-election. The CPA is as you would suspect a Christian Party and also has a comprehensive manifesto that offers a full programme for Government. We have previously spoken with Candace Mitchell who stood for the CPA in Croydon North in GE2019. We spoke with Maureen about what led her to run or the CPA, her experiences running and their priorities for London.
Maureen thank-you for your time.
you tell us a little about your background?
a born and bred Londoner from South East London. I lived in Canada for 14
years between 1989-2003 where I became a born again Christian. It a very
valuable experience living in another culture who have a different world view
than most Europeans. North American’s are much more Patriotic on a whole.
I have been in property management/housing for the past 13 years which I
enjoy immensely. I am single with no children.
lead you to be a candidate in the Greater London Assembly elections?
I have been a member of the Christian Peoples Alliance since about 2009 an active member since 2015 when I ran in my constituency in the GE representing the CPA. I have, since voting age been a very conscientious voter seeing it as my civic duty. Especially as a person of colour I honour those who sacrificed for me on two counts, being an ethnic minority and a woman, for me to be able to vote. Britain needs Christian values again, the moral decline must be stemmed. When government legislation is a willing accomplice in the moral decline of our nation it is time to act.
Some of our readers might not be familiar with the CPA. At a national level what are you key priorities?
Our priorities are clear: Support Marriage and the family, Respect life from conception to natural death. Protecting unborn babies is one of our key objectives, Make tax fair and care for the poor. We would end the scandal of the multinational corporations such as Facebook and Google avoiding Corporation tax by moving their profits abroad with a turnover tax to offset corporation tax. Also provide free shelters for the homeless. Fight Crime: support people leaving prison to lower re-offending rates. Also empower the police to do their job concerning the knife crime epidemic.
You ran in Lewisham East by-election against David Kurten and Sean Finch who we have worked with. How did you find the experience?
It was a valuable experience I found David very friendly and I thoroughly enjoyed his presentation, in fact I agreed with just about everything he said. His focus the knife crime issue and how the current mayor had dealt with the growing problem. I like working with other candidates even if we have different views.
You were part of the by-election was the bazar and infamous hustings that the police closed down. (Watch on YouTube) What are you memories from that day?
This was quite bazaar. I had to be escorted into the building by two police persons because of the human blockade. There was a great deal of jostling, thankfully I was able to get into the building, some of my CPA party members did not gain access. The police should have arrested the protesters and allowed the Hustings to take place. Free speech was hindered that day!
The GLA and Mayor have key duties on Transport and Policing. What are your priorities for London?
The CPA priorities would be to tackle knife crime, this is a scourge in our communities and must be met head on with a comprehensive plan which this mayoral administration has failed to do. Another major issue being ignored by this administration is homelessness which in London is quite clearly on the increase and of course this links into the London Housing crisis, which again the CPA will address with a comprehensive housing policy outlined in our manifesto.
Any thoughts you would like to leave us with?
London needs a fresh approach, new ideas that are creative and innovative. If the same old parties are continually given the reigns of control in government the result for the electorate will be mush of the same, ineffective unproductive policies that often just waste money and yield very little results.
The British Government could be set to ramp up its measures to control the spread of the Coronavirus, amid mounting criticism of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s handling of the situation. Mike Swadling, School Governor and member of the Croydon constitutionalists, reflects on the subject.
+++ As so often is happening at the moment events overtook what was said +++
“There is an importance to keeping these children educated, there is an importance to allow their parents and families to work and schools provide a lot of facilities for children beyond just their education, and the longer we can keep that going; the better”
“I think that it’s important that the British Government tries to get things as back to normal as possible, as quickly as possible and that we aim for that bounce back”
“It’s not like you can’t have a video conference or an audio conference and agree on the way forward, there is nothing that has fundamentally changed about the fact that the UK has left the EU, and frankly the European’s completely inept response so far, suggests all the more reason for us to free ourselves quicker”
Owing to the ongoing Coronavirus crisis and following the latest government advice we are postponing the drinks we had planned for Saturday 21st March in New Addington. As soon as things are back up and running we will reschedule and hope to see you there.
With the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland all but certain to leave the various clutches of the EU and its institutions on the 31st of December 2020 (after some false starts), Peter Sonnex – Parliamentary Candidate for the Brexit Party in Croydon South, then Croydon Central – reflects on the Brexit Party, his role in the 2019 General Election and the future. Is that Brexit done, then?
As a veteran, definitely not a politician, I was involved in
politics for the first time to achieve an effect: delivery on the result of the
2016 Referendum; the UK becoming, once again, a self-governing, independent
coastal nation; and, setting the conditions for wider political reform. I am
proud of what we achieved. I remain humbled by the selfless support of a team
of volunteers, coming from all walks of life and political persuasions, who
committed themselves in all weathers to the causes of upholding our democracy
and restoring trust in our institutions. We got it done!
My wife, Lesley, was the greatest supporter. Without
question she walked more miles, delivered more leaflets, stood on more street
stalls and, as my election agent, went through the nomination process twice as
I stood first in Croydon South, then Croydon Central. My debt of gratitude, as
with my carbon footprint, is irredeemable.
My campaign manager, “Chris”, provided energy and
challenge in equal measure. His experience, local knowledge and drive for
justice as much as political reform were invaluable. It is a sad reflection of
politics, with its unnecessarily toxic environment for those who choose to get
involved, that “Chris” will be known only as “Chris”.
Some wailing about ‘splitting the vote’, the very odd expletive when canvassing and petty online trolling aside – I enjoyed the election experience; from being energised by political rallies, the overwhelmingly positive reception on the fabled “doorstep”, street stalls, hustings, leafleting, social media interactions to media opportunities – all mysteries hitherto. Even without the prospect of electoral success, save for any seismic national factor which didn’t materialise, I was compelled to take part. I felt it was important enough to provide a voice and a candidate on the burning issues of the day. More than I could have hoped for, I was marginalised (some may say, brilliantly) by the Conservative Party campaign as they necessarily and increasingly took up the rhetoric, focus, determination and manifesto (Contract) of the Brexit Party and Nigel Farage.
Listening to Croydon’s Chris Philp MP and Councillor Mario
Creatura change their tune on the EU in the interests of capturing the
electorate and for their party to exist at all, let alone remain in power, was
as enlightening about politics as it was – a sad reflection on me – amusing.
Strategically, I think there were four elements to the (even
now barely a year old) Brexit Party achieving its effect:
Winning the 23 May 2019 election to the EU Parliament, especially in the Labour Party heartlands of the North East and the North West (the so-called Red Wall). Labour had been found wanting among the five million Labour Party supporters who had voted to leave the EU. This became key in winning support for the Conservative Party who promised to “Get Brexit Done!”
Failure, thank goodness, at getting Theresa May’s Chequers-launched withdrawal agreement through parliament, combined with the EU election result, led to a change of PM and a new cabinet;
The Brexit Party standing up over 600 credible prospective parliamentary candidates (PPCs) on the 4th of November 2019 provided an existential threat to the Conservative Party. Even the Evening Standard was forced to headline that day with “Nigel Farage pushes Tory general election campaign off track” (as ministers plead [with] him to withdraw Brexit Party Candidates); and,
The unilateral decision on the 11th of November, just a week later, to stand down 317 Brexit Party PPCs* so as not to risk either a hung parliament, a second EU referendum or a referendum on Scottish independence.
[*The strict rule of not standing in a seat with a
Conservative hold or win in the 2017 General Election was not without criticism
(understatement). It did not account for seats where ‘remainer’ Conservatives
had joined other parties or where they had retired or otherwise stood down. A
great deal of talent and political goodwill/horsepower was lost or
disenfranchised as a result.]
That said, operationally on Brexit, there is still a long
way to go… Much remains to be resolved. We should be most wary of the following
during the transition period:
Our contingent liability to the European
Investment Bank (EIB). After joining the EU, the UK became a member of the EIB,
with a 16% capital share. The UK has contributed over €3.5bn and has over
€35.4bn of ‘callable capital’. ‘Callable capital’ is a contingent liability,
i.e. money which the UK would be obliged to pay if the EIB suffered losses it
was unable to cover using its accumulated reserves. As shareholders in the
European Central Bank (ECB), our contingent liabilities could be as high as
€200-400bn – who knows…;
The wedge hammered into our Union (in relation
to NI) by continued ‘dynamic alignment’;
Existing commitment or further consideration (as
required in the Political Declaration, given legal effect in the Withdrawal
Agreement) of integration in military Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO),
similar to NATO, as part of the EU’s security and defence policy (CSDP) over
normal bilateral cooperation as necessary in the national interest;
Fragility of the Eurozone economies;
Fragility of EU cohesion amid, among other
things, high EU youth unemployment; and,
Challenges on the Greece-Turkey border as we
These topics, with the government’s approach to control of our territorial waters, are being monitored by legacy Brexit Party MEPs and supporters as part of a Brexit Barometer. We are not going away until Brexit is truly done.
I am no cheerleader for the Conservative Party, but…
Nationally, I think we can be heartened by the government’s
opening approaches to Brexit negotiations. The sticking points at the end of
the first week are those relating to our independence: withdrawal from the
European Convention on Human Rights; the role of the European Court of Justice;
the maintenance of a level playing field for UK and EU businesses; and,
conditions on future access for EU fishing fleets to UK waters. The EU may just
be realising any final deal has to respect that the UK shall be independent of
its institutional orbit, laws and courts.
I think we can be encouraged by the government’s intention
to honour manifesto pledges on immigration and infrastructure investment. It is
good to see the spotlights falling on the House of Lords and the BBC. Our
government and institutions must be held to account for what they promise, do
and say in our name. Whatever they do, they cannot be institutionally
dishonest, biased, unaccountable or wasteful.
I think we can be buoyed by the government’s handling of the
recent flooding and the ongoing Covid-19 Coronavirus outbreak. History will
tell… Would a Labour Party in government have done any better?
The gulf between provision in the NHS and in social care
remains to be addressed, and we are watching here, too. We are keen to see
enduring cross-party approaches and consensus removing health and social care
as perennial political footballs. No political party owns our NHS.
We are in a complete pickle over free speech as debate, even
the truth, is shut down by either cancelling an opposing view or legislating
against it. I see light in the topic of free speech being discussed more often
and more openly. It requires as much education as it does leadership and
example. But please, no more legislation to appease sensitivities…
As a teacher, leader and example, how good a PM is Boris
Johnson? We don’t know yet. On the evidence, he remains ambiguous, past and
present, on so many issues, including on those relating to the EU. He is
utterly unambiguous though on power as it relates to his party being the party
of government. The lesson learned in our democracy is to listen to the people.
In particular he is and needs to keep listening to those who lent their votes
in order to uphold our democracy and get Brexit done!
Locally, we have a failing Mayor of London hiding in plain
sight. On knife crime and housing alone he can only be found wanting. And yet,
on a typically low turnout he is most likely to be re-elected to deliver more
of the same in the face of no credible opposition candidate. It hurts that earlier
this year, the Brexit Party chose not to engage in the Mayoral, GLA and local
elections. Voices for an electorate looking at slates of least-worst options
have been denied. Democracy, eh?
Closer to home, we see the usual partisan Punch and Judy show that is the Croydon Borough Council. What a revelation it would be to see councillors united in their approach to knife crime, development, housing and reform solely in the Borough residents’ interest, and for the long term. For Croydon, I really do hope for a democratically elected mayor to be empowered to deliver for everyone and be held to account by the borough as a whole. DEMOC – now, let’s get that done!